Last season, Jevon Patton was a scorer. He averaged more than 20 points per game. He was the player of the year in Gaston County, and he led Gastonia’s Highland Tech to the N.C. 1A Western Regional championship game.
Over the summer, though, Patton said he and his family decided to move to Charlotte. They moved into Olympic’s district and Patton joined a team that had been nationally ranked the past two seasons.
When Patton got on campus, he knew he wouldn’t be the featured scorer anymore on a team that has five players averaging double figures. But Patton didn’t have any trouble fitting in, despite losing his role as “The Man.”
“I didn’t have to tell him anything,” Olympic coach Ty Baumgardner said. “He understands basketball. He knows he’s got guys around him who can score. He’s the point guard. He gets the ball where it needs to go.”
Patton had a bit of a flashback to his scoring days in Wednesday’s 105-53 win over Garinger, however.
Garinger chose to guard him with 7-foot center Raekwon Long, and Baumgardner had his other four players run to the edges of the court, yelling “OPEN! OPEN!” repeatedly.
This “open” formation gave Patton room to operate. Patton drove by Long a few times for some tough layups and when Long backed off and tried to use his length to force Patton into the jumper, Patton rarely missed.
He scored 26 of his season-high 32 points in the first half.
“Last year, I had to score,” Patton said after the game. “It’s just what I had to do. Tonight, it was a defensive mismatch and coach told me to go at him, so that’s what I did. I was surprised by the strategy, but I took advantage of it.”
Patton, who is about 5-foot-8, is very quick with the ball and is a sticky defender. He had four steals, often just reaching in and ripping the ball away from a Garinger offensive player. He showed ability to finish at the basket in traffic and his jump shot looked pure, with him often just getting the ball beyond the reach of the 7-foot Long.
“Jevon’s been consistent all year,” Baumgardner said. “He played well tonight. He really shot it well, but he’s played well all year.”
Patton averages just less than 10 points, 7.5 assists and 2.4 steals. He makes a turnover for every five assists, which pleases his coach, and he’s a willing passer. Even during his big offensive performance Wednesday, he often found Trojan teammates in the smallest of passing windows. His passes arrived in optimal position for them to score or set up the next guy.
“The guys love playing with him,” Baumgardner said. “And why wouldn’t they? Who wouldn’t want to play with a guy who has a five-to-one assists-to-turnover ratio?”
Patton said this is the season he dreamed of last summer.
He’s playing on a team ranked as high as No. 7 in the nation, one that’s trying to reach its first state championship game. Olympic has all the ingredients you would want in a high school team – size, athleticism, shooting – and with Patton, it has a guy who can make it all click.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was really little,” Patton said. “I would work out with my dad and he would tell me all the time, ‘No kid is doing what you’re doing right now.’ He told me I would be good and I believed in him and kept working hard. Now, with the move, I feel like I was put into a good position and you can see it’s working out well. I like it here.”
Patton, as it turns out, is still “The Man.” He just doesn’t have to score 20 a night to keep the title.